Paying Prisoners £3 an hour

There\’s a very, very, simple solution to this:

Prisoners paid £3 a day to work at call centre that has fired other staff

The reason you don\’t pay prisoners more than this is because you don\’t want prisoners, even in an open prison, swanning around with £200 a week in their pockets.

But if you\’re going to employ them, outside the prison then you also don\’t want them being hired out at £3 a day. For the obvious undercutting reasons (although there is a good argument that training and rehabilitation are a good idea for them and thus justify low wages).

The answer being: they can earn £3 a day, just as much as they would in jobs inside the prison. But they should be paid more normal rates. To be collected upon their release from an escrow account.

And wouldn\’t that be a good idea, that a prisoner leaves with a little nest egg to get them started?

17 thoughts on “Paying Prisoners £3 an hour”

  1. In France, prisoners can earn fairly normal wages for work inside the prison as well as outside. They can only keep a fraction for themselves but are encouraged to send the rest to their families. This makes it possible for someone to support their family while in jail, sometimes for the first time ever. Massively helpful to rehabilitation.

  2. You could call it a Prisoner Trust Fund. And force it to be invested in RM’s Local Authority Bonds.

    That might engage the Local Authority Inv Committee to make sensible decisions knowing that 20 year lifers will shortly be out and wanting to know what has happened to their accumulated earnings.

  3. “To be collected upon their release from an escrow account.” Nah, to be collected five years after their release if they haven’t been caught again.

  4. Some other issues: costs incurred by the prisoner, in being in prison, and in some cases, victims may have a claim on the prisoner. So the question is, to what degree should the prisoner be shielded from some of these in order to encourage them to work at all? percentage withdrawal maybe? Ideally we want prisoners working pulling in as much as possible, maybe there should be upwards-bidding for wages on on in-prison labour by external companies.
    But the nest-egg is a very good idea.

  5. JuliaM

    With low-skill jobs, we pay for the job, not the labourer. So if the job is worth £9 per hour to good citizens, it can’t possibly be worth £3 per hour to a prisoner. Quite apart from the implied value judgement (“prisoners are worth less than good citizens”), as Tim points out, it is hardly an incentive for the call centre to employ good citizens, is it?

  6. Alternatively, they could pay the money they earn to the victim(s) of their crime(s). We talk about criminals “paying their debt to society”, but I wonder how many actually pay (in real terms) the full financial cost incurred to the direct victims (and via insurance to the rest of us), never mind any additional payments for compensation, court costs, etc. For example, in a couple of cases recorded in the local paper:
    * one guy convicted of stealing ~£10k of jewellery.
    * another guy went joy-riding in his boss’ car and crashed it causing ~£20k damage.
    Both were sentenced (by the same judge) to some community service and to pay £1000 in compensation. Is this justice?

  7. Hang on, isn’t undercutting supposedly a really good thing when it’s done by the Indians and Chinese?

    Then it’s called trade. Why is this any different?

    Tim adds: Government mandated limits (“You may not pay prisoners more than £3 a day) are different from the playing out of comparative advantage.

  8. There’s something a bit dodgy going on here in terms of subsidy to private sector companies. First we have ‘workfare’ subsidising the likes of Poundland, Argos and Tesco, and now we have prisoners (apparently) putting non-prisoners out of work. If we are going to compel people without jobs to work on pain of losing their benefits, why don’t we make them work for the public sector (subsidising the taxpayer) or in the charity sector? Or the companies should pay the going rate.

    Similarly for prisoners – who I do think should be offered the opportunity to work – they should be paid the same as non-prisoners. (what happens to the wages is another discussion.)

  9. @Tim, but is it really different?

    My Indian competitor is cheaper for a whole host of reasons mandated by government – starting with the fact my government actually makes a serious, determined, and unrelenting effort to collect income tax and his doesn’t. And all the various other dues and requirements to have a pension, employer’s liability insurance, to heat the building and so on. To the extent these affect my competitor the requirement can be met with small cash incentives to the relevant inspectors. If we levelled the government playing field (that could be them up just as well as us down) the price difference would be at a wild guess about 50%, not the ~80% it is today.

    So is one government mandating different things for different people really that much different to two governments mandating different things for different people?

  10. Tim adds: Government mandated limits (“You may not pay prisoners more than £3 a day) are different from the playing out of comparative advantage.

    Quite, but not just that.

    “You may not pay prisoners more than £3 a day and you may not pay non-prisoners less than £6 an hour.”

  11. It is still a dangerous development and could easily lead to the slave labour system being worked in the US where it is in the interest of the state and their corporate hangers on to get as many people behind bars as possible and pay them cents while keeping the dollars for themselves.

  12. Simple. Put the money is an closed account for them, and upon release inform the victim of the crime (or their heirs if a death is involved) that a civil claim for compensation will be considered. If the victim wants to claim nothing gets released until the claim is settled. Anything left after that goes to the prisoner.

  13. Apparently I’m the only one to find it’s amusing the jobs the prisoners have been doing for next to nothing are at the call centre of a company, part of this wonderful, burgeoning, green energy sector. You know. The sector that going to provide all these hundreds of thousands of new jobs & save the economy.

  14. My Indian competitor is cheaper for a whole host of reasons mandated by government – starting with the fact my government actually makes a serious, determined, and unrelenting effort to collect income tax and his doesn’t. And all the various other dues and requirements to have a pension, employer’s liability insurance, to heat the building and so on.

    No, this is absolute bullshit. As someone who’s actually employed people in India, the regulations on formal-sector employment (and all call-centre/outsourcing roles fall into the formal sector) are far more stringent, bureaucratic and challenging than those in place in the UK.

    The vast majority of Indians, obviously, are employed in the informal sector, are subject to no regulations and pay no tax. But that absolutely is not the case for the ones working in outsourcing businesses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *